Tino Zwirs is an entrepreneur with a passion for creating a lasting impact through education and innovation. Besides being a founder, he strategically advises startups, scaleups, and corporates to help them reach their full potential. He is a Board Member at Young Creators, which strives to make it as easy as possible for people between the ages of 16 and 26 to live an entrepreneurial life in the Netherlands. Find out more about their mission and check out the advice for founders Tino shared with us.
1. Hi Tino, thank you for agreeing to do the interview. Please tell us about your background and your connection to the startup world.
Thanks for inviting me! I have quite a long background when it comes to entrepreneurship. When I was about eight years old, I started selling flower bulbs, not thinking about any aspect of entrepreneurship at the time, just having fun. Since then, I have co-founded seven startups and have been involved in about a dozen more. This made me increasingly more connected to the startup ecosystem over the years.
Even though I have always been connected in one way or another, my involvement increased exponentially when I moved to Amsterdam in 2016. Which is also when I started to engage with the Young Creators Community.
2. You’re a Board Member at Young Creators, which strives to make it as easy as possible for youngsters between the ages of 16 and 26 to live an entrepreneurial life in the Netherlands. Tell us about your mission.
We are a community backed by a foundation with a mission to make entrepreneurial life as easy as possible in the Netherlands for people between the ages of 16 and 26. We do so by organizing events and connecting the different parts of the ecosystem. We currently facilitate a community of a little bit over 32K people who can post their projects and vacancies on the platform.
The best way to describe Young Creators is to compare it to a theme park. The journey starts when you enter the park and want to explore everything. You may have one or two favorites when you finish trying every single ride. And when you find out what your favorite thing to do is, your Young Creators journey ends.
3. You’ve founded various startups yourself. What is it about entrepreneurship that particularly attracts you? Tell us about BouwPlanCheck and WhiskyWhy, which are companies you’re currently working on.
I don’t think I ever actively chose entrepreneurship. It just grew on me. I like to dream big, try new things, fail occasionally, and build from scratch. And I have always found it challenging to do that within bigger corporations.
BouwPlanCheck is focused on making it as easy as possible to test permit requests. We’re building an AI algorithm to make the reviewing process easier and more efficient.
WhiskyWay is an AI startup that focuses on recommending the perfect whisky. We are currently on the brink of creating a new version of the platform, which allows you to buy a completely personalized tasting package.
4. You’re also working as an Entrepreneurship Lecturer. What is the most important advice you would give to startup founders looking to grow?
I studied at the Amsterdam School of International Business. At some point, they offered me a Business Advisor and Entrepreneurship Lecturer position on a freelance basis, which I happily accepted.
My most important advice for startup founders is to be themselves. If you’re genuine in everything you do and say and you’re consistent throughout your journey, you’ll move forward more easily.
Another important piece of advice is to dare to dream big. Founders in Europe have a hard time thinking big. This is understandable since the markets are much smaller than in the US. However, having bigger ambitions and knowing your business’s ultimate goal helps you grow.
5. What’s going well in the startup ecosystem in the Netherlands at the moment? Which challenges is the ecosystem facing?
There is a whole bunch of talent in the Netherlands. So, if we’re not succeeding in something, it can only be because the different parts of the ecosystem are incorrectly linked.
The government is afraid of everything new, so the missing link is a more open dialog on what is new, what is scaring people, and what is exciting. Innovation only starts to become interesting for the government once it is in a particular stage. But you cannot reap the fruit later if you don’t plant any seeds.
Thank you very much for sharing your story and insights, Tino. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.
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